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Only natural: Excellence rises to the top for Windom's Delaney Smith and the Luverne girls 4 x 800-meter relay team

When the Luverne High School girls 4 x 800-meter relay team won its championship Friday at the Minnesota state Class A track and field meet, it was only natural. For the Cardinals, it was their third consecutive such championship in three seasons. When Delaney Smith of Windom Area won her state shot put title at St. Michael-Albertville High School, it was also natural. Smith’s performances have been leading up to a gold medal ever since she was an eighth-grader.

ST. MICHAEL -- When the Luverne High School girls 4 x 800-meter relay team won its championship Friday at the Minnesota state Class A track and field meet, it was only natural. For the Cardinals, it was their third consecutive such championship in three seasons.

When Delaney Smith of Windom Area won her state shot put title at St. Michael-Albertville High School, it was also natural. Smith’s performances have been leading up to a gold medal ever since she was an eighth-grader.

It was a hot day at the 2021 state track and field meet on Friday, and Smith surprised no one by warming up to the shot put task. After all, she’d been at two state meets prior to Friday, in both her freshman and sophomore years (track and field was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19), and she’d finished as high as third in the shot.

Now a graduated senior, she’d broken her own school record five times during the regular season.

But on Friday in St. Michael, she didn’t get off to a good start. On her first throw, she scratched.

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“Just something technical that we’ve been working on for a while. We’ve been working on it in practice, so we knew it was possible,” she said later. “My left foot, when I’m gliding to the front, it crosses over to the left side of the board. I lost it left sector.”

But not to worry. She had this.

“I just tried to keep my composure,” she said.

On her third toss, she threw 43 feet, two and three-fourths inches, which proved good enough to win. Her nearest competitor, Monica Johnson of Northome-Kelliher, could only do 42-11.

“It’s excitement and relief, I guess,” Smith explained her feelings after receiving her gold medal. “I’ve put in countless hours and it’s finally paid off.”

Indeed, Smith was already a strong shot put and discus athlete before she entered high school. But she’s never been satisfied with anything she’s ever accomplished, and she worked very hard to continue improving. In the COVID year, she put in rigorous workouts on her own.

“It would have been easy to be very content where I was,” she said, “starting off the way I did. That extra time in the offseason really paid off.”

Immediately after exiting the victory stand for the shot put, Smith made a left turn toward the discus area, where she went on to place second with a throw of 121-8. The heave wasn’t as impressive as the 125-6 mark that she’d reached during the regular season, but her finish was well ahead of the ninth-place Class A ranking she’d entered with.

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First place went to Metaya Jergenson of Minnewaska Area, who threw 123-8.

Each relay win is special

In the girls 4 x 800-meter relay finals, Cardinals Regan Feit, Tiana Lais, Jenna DeBates and Tenley Nelson won with room to spare, coming in at 9:34.65. Second-place Minnewaska Area was almost 11 seconds behind the fantastic foursome, in a 9:45.04 clocking.

Also representing Section 3A, Murray County Central (with Ashley Overgaauw, Brylei Schreier, Megan Bakke and Amanda Overgaauw) placed a solid fifth, in 9:50.75, a new school record.

The Cardinals used two new 4 x 800-meter runners this year, Lais and DeBates. And together the four performed mightily on Friday, with the veteran Nelson running the anchor leg to easily keep Minnewaska Area in the rearview mirror.

After performing on the state champion 4 x 800-meter relay teams of 2018 and 2019, Nelson said it was far from certain that the re-fashioned 2021 squad would win state.

“We had a good shot of winning it, but we never expected it,” she said. “We’re down two runners from the last time. I knew we could bring in some new girls and I really had confidence in them.”

Three seasons in a row, she said, “feels really good, especially this year with all the uncertainty (with the coronavirus).”

On her last leg, Nelson looked hardly winded as she kept Minnewaska Area well behind. But it wasn’t as easy as it looked, she admitted.

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“My legs felt really tired, actually. I kept thinking in my head, I have to run really good for my team because they ran so amazing and had to run really well. And they all put me in a great position. There’s no way I could have done it without them.”

Nelson will be a senior next year, where she’ll have the opportunity to go for another 4 x 800 title. Next year, of the four, only Feit will have graduated.

On Thursday, Nelson placed fifth individually in the girls 3,200-meter run in a clocking of 11.08.71. DeBates was right behind, placing sixth in 11:11.78.

Feit placed 10th in the 300-meter hurdles on Friday, in 47.86.

Also Friday, in the 4 x 400-meter relay race, the Luverne girls placed fifth in 4:07.26. Feit, Lais, Nelson and Gracie Zewiske ran that one.

Zewiske also competed in the 400-meter dash, placing seventh in 59.38.

Relay was ‘intense’

The girls Class A 4 x 800-meter relay was not for the faint of heart. MCC’s Amanda Overgaauw, who ran her team’s final leg, described it as “very intense.”

She said, “There was a lot of elbow pushing and boxing in. I was less than one second away from a PR (personal record).”

Overgaauw, who along with her twin sister Ashley is slight of build, does not look like someone who can fight through such physical challenges. But last fall the two sophomores established themselves as upper echelon cross country runners, and by Friday they had already paid their “tough girl” dues.

Amanda said she ran the final leg of the 4 x 800 on adrenaline.

“It was all in the moment,” she explained.

“I was thinking I knew how bad our team wanted this, and we wanted it together. And I knew I had to go and not hold back. … I tried to be smart. I got on the inside. And I tried to find the right moment to make my move.”

While Luverne’s Nelson and DeBates placed 5-6 Thursday in the 3,200-meter run, Amanda Overgaauw was third in 10:55.12. Tough girl, indeed.

More stories from the state track meet are online at www.dglobe.com.

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Delaney Smith ... (Mike Vosburg/The Forum)
Forum Communications Co.

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